Six Little Words

by SpectralFury

First published

Six little words slowly destroy Twilight’s faith in her mentor, and lead her to a different destiny.

Inspired by Parting Words, by RHJunior

Princess Celestia is the paragon of Harmony. She is kind to her subjects and generous to those in need. She is loyal to her ideals and never compromised. She has a good, if mostly unknown, sense of humor. Above all else, she is always honest. Right?

Twilight Sparkle trusts Princess Celestia implicitly and in all things. The Princess has never steered her wrong, not once. When Twilight thought that her concerns for Nightmare Moon were being ignored, Celestia had her back, even if she was withholding information.

Wait a minute.

Shortly before Celestia leaves for Canterlot with the redeemed Luna, Twilight has a conversation with her mentor that will change her perspective on the Princess forever. She will receive something new, beautiful, and damning all the same.


Six Little Words or: The Question That Twilight Didn’t Ask in Canon.

Violence Tag: Implied torture.

Comments are back open. Please try to keep it cordial.


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“Losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose a friend, forever.” -Pinkamena Diane Pie

Twilight Sparkle was a happy mare. She had saved the day. She had five new friends. Nightmare Moon had been redeemed, and Princess Luna had returned. She had new studies in friendship in the humble town of Ponyville. All was well.

So what was the strange feeling in her chest?

She had kept a smile on her face through the entire party that Pinkie Pie had thrown. Named the “Welcome Back to Arcadia Princess Luna” party, it was essentially an extremely upsized version of the “Welcome to Ponyville” party that had been thrown for Twilight less than a day ago.

Cake, drinks, games, and happy ponies were plentiful. Twilight spoke to Princess Celestia several times during the festivities, as most everyone else lacked the courage to do so. She had tried to make conversation with Princess Luna, but the blue alicorn seemed to be still recovering from her time as Nightmare Moon, and Twilight could see the guilt in her eyes.

All the while, a dull pain in Twilight’s chest refused to be ignored. An emotional pain, one that she didn’t quite understand. It was so very similar to the time that one of her classmates used her to boost their own grades, and left her with nothing once they had accomplished their goal. Betrayal. But, who betrayed her?

The party lasted for a good three hours before it began to wind down at Celestia’s soft urging. Twilight and her friends were tired from what would be known as The Longest Night, and it was likely that Luna wanted to sleep and recover as well.

Twilight had been thinking about the issue the whole time, and had come to a conclusion. Princess Celestia had lied to her. Not directly, perhaps, and not maliciously, but she had done so. She hadn’t ignored Twilight’s concerns for Nightmare Moon’s return, but she didn’t address them, either. She instead led Twilight to Ponyville with a suggestion to make some friends.

Exactly what she needed to do to ultimately defeat Nightmare Moon.

Celestia had manipulated her. It was for the good of Equestria, but it was manipulation all the same.

And so as everyone was packing up to leave, Twilight and her friends were there to see Celestia and Luna off. Mentor and student shared a gentle hug, and Twilight’s conflict must have been showing, because Celestia’s mouth twitched into a slight frown.

“Is there something wrong, my student?” she asked.

Twilight bit her lip. She wanted to trust Princess Celestia as she always had. She wanted to let this go, and go back to how things were. In another world, she had done so.

But not here.

“Princess Celestia, can I talk to you for a moment?” She saw Celestia frown at what was likely an awkward and uncertain expression on Twilight’s face. Celestia glanced over to her sister, who nodded silently before stepping in the carriage to wait.

“Of course, Twilight.” Twilight led Celestia off a short distance to a bridge, where no one was around to listen. “What’s on your mind?”

How did one ask this kind of question to a princess? She didn’t want to insult Celestia by implying malicious intent, but being too indirect would serve neither of them. Celestia waited patiently as Twilight came up with a solution, more than used to this sort of behavior. Twilight was always nervous when it came to failure or disappointment, but anxiety and a hint of fear? That was new, and Celestia didn’t seem to pick up on it.

Finally, Twilight had it.

“Princess, why didn’t you help me with Nightmare Moon?” There. Not an accusation, but an innocent question. One that should evoke answers. They were in relative privacy, so there should be no need to be concise.

Celestia answered immediately. “Because it wasn't necessary. I knew you could do it.”

I knew you could do it.

And that was that. Nothing more aside from more gentle praises and associated words that Twilight didn’t quite listen to. Celestia was very aware that Twilight liked as many details as possible, and Twilight knew this. She knew that Celestia was smart enough to pick up on the subtext. Of the unasked question, ‘Why did you imply that Nightmare Moon wasn’t real?’ She dodged the question back in Canterlot, and she dodged the question in the Castle of the Two Sisters.

She dodged the question here.

Twilight didn’t quite know what to say or do in this situation, so she did what she always did. She smiled, thanked the Princess, and vowed to think about what happened in her solitude. Ultimately, she decided that it was an isolated incident, and it was for the greater good.

Still, the damage had been done.


Less than a month later, she found herself brooding once again.

The day after Celestia left, Twilight ultimately decided to begin maintaining a policy of optimistic cynicism. After all, Princess Celestia had an excuse for what she did, so it wasn't as if she was out to get her. No, Twilight simply saw this as an opportunity to learn about the concept of deceit.

There were many kinds of lies, after all. White lies that parents tell their children, black lies where ponies selfishly try to turn a situation to their advantage, and the spectrum between. Twilight believed that Celestia told a white lie. She believed that if Celestia had outright told her to make friends, those friendships would have been forced, and thus not fit for the Elements of Harmony.

So it was alright. It still hurt, but it was for the good of Equestria.

She lied on her bed, brooding once again. Today was different. Today, Princess Celestia sent her two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala. It was one of, if not the most prestigious social gathering of the year. Only two tickets would have been perfectly fine if Twilight was still a shut-in, only having her dragon companion Spike to invite along.

Complications ensued when she realized that her five friends wanted to go as well. Five friends that spent most of the day trying to convince her to share her plus-one ticket with them. Each of them had a completely valid reason to want to go to the gala, and each time she made an excuse to think about it, she felt awful for it.

Finally deciding that if all her friends couldn’t go, she wouldn’t either, she had Spike sent a polite declination and returned the tickets.

Spike belched a response less than a minute later, along with enough tickets for all of them. At first she was overjoyed that everyone would be able to go to the gala. They all danced happy little dances, and talked about their plans.

Then Twilight ended up in bed, and her mind refused to be silent, whispering traitorous thoughts to her. Why did Celestia respond so quickly? How did she get the tickets that quickly? Celestia handed them out of course, but the gala was supposed to be the pinnacle of exclusivity. There were a limited number of them available, and Twilight doubted that Celestia would transfer five tickets from other ponies to her friends, just like that.

Did she plan all of this? Did she knowingly send me two tickets with the plan of having me learn a friendship lesson?

Twilight didn’t sleep that night. She was a mare of analysis, and simply letting a question like that fade was not in her nature. On the surface, this seemed like another white lie, but this one stung more. The fate of Equestria wasn't in the balance, just a single night at a fancy party. There really wasn't much of an excuse, here.

She decided to be more vigilant. If this was some new kind of study based on deception, she didn't like it. Otherwise, it meant that Celestia was deliberately obfuscating facts for some reason. Still, she kept hope that this was all a misunderstanding. Once was happenstance. Twice was coincidence. Time would tell if there would be a third time.


Twilight was sitting on her balcony this time, watching the dragon’s smoke dissipate. Her body was still vibrating from the incident, her heart still quietly asking if another life threatening event was around the corner.

Celestia had sent Twilight and her friends to convince a dragon to leave. It wasn't a baby dragon like Spike, or even an adult dragon. It was an elder dragon, one as large as the city hall. Large enough to eat a pony in one bite or squash one like a bug.

Celestia sent a scholar, a seamstress, a farmer, a baker, a weatherpony, and an animal caretaker. Celestia sent six civilians to deal with an elder dragon with no backup. No guards. No spells. No protection.

They got lucky. Lucky that Fluttershy had a spine of steel hidden beneath her soft exterior. Lucky that the dragon was easily cowed by the stern voice of an otherwise weak and helpless pony. Twilight would be ever grateful to the pegasus for saving their lives, but she couldn't throw off the shaking that plagued her all the way home.

The dragon had been enraged by Rainbow’s reckless attack, and they would have died if they were blasted by fire instead of smoke. All of them. The Bearers of the Elements of Harmony, burned to ash because Celestia didn't tell them what exactly they were dealing with, nor did she send them any backup.

Twilight had included a detailed description of what happened in her report, as she always did. Including just how close they had come to perishing. What did Celestia send back?

I knew you could do it.

There was more than just that, of course, but they were still there. The same words said after they defeated Nightmare Moon. The same words she had repeated over the years, now that Twilight thought about it. Every time Twilight was faced with the tougher of her tests, ones that should be near impossible, those same six words were uttered. Was it genuine praise, or something else?

But this was the third strike, the third event involving Celestia in which they had missing or dubious information. The ticket incident wouldn't have been physically dangerous, but friendships had been destroyed in the past for lesser disagreements, and the Elements of Harmony relied on their friendship continuing.

Nightmare Moon? The dragon? Celestia had gambled with Twilight's life twice now, and that was only after she left Canterlot. Who knew how many dangerous spells or lessons she had assigned Twilight to investigate without telling her all the information?

How long has this been going on, and why?

Twilight found herself sleepless again. She felt empty.


Twilight watched Princess Celestia leave Ponyville. Her trip was cut short by some kind of insect emergency in Fillydelphia. This was good, because it meant that she wouldn’t see the damage the parasprites had done to the town. Damage that was Twilight’s fault due to her ill planned spell.

Everything was right with the world.

Except not. Fillydelphia was to the east of Canterlot, while Ponyville was to the south. Celestia had gone out of her way to go there, despite the fact that there was an emergency occurring in one of Equestria’s primary trade ports. She could have just sent a message via dragonfire, but didn’t.

Did she do this deliberately, or was she notified just before landing? It just didn't make sense!

Twilight had a headache the rest of the day as she tried to figure out Celestia's reasoning.


Twilight groaned, biting her pillow.

I’m getting too paranoid.

Celestia had been there for a completely innocent reason. She just wanted to watch the running of the leaves. Twilight shouldn’t have snapped at her for her presence. After doing so, she immediately ran home and locked herself in her room, terrified of what would happen after.

She spent an hour calming herself before deciding to investigate her recent irritability. She retrieved her copies of her friendship reports and examined them. Her first report regarding the gala tickets was very warm, as she expected. However as the weeks went by, she had been getting slightly more cold with her letters. It was hard to see, but it was there.

What’s happening? Have I really lost faith in her?

This would only end in tears if she continued on as is. She needed a second opinion, but who? Spike was raised by Celestia for years, and saw her as practically a mother figure. The rest of her friends worshipped the Princess like nearly everybody else. Twilight needed someone impartial, or at least someone with the wisdom to detach themselves and view her problem objectively.

There was only one pony available for the task.


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Lady Twilight Sparkle, Bearer of Magic, Purger of the Nightmare

H.R.H. Princess Luna, Alicorn of the Night, The Everlasting Shadow, Conqueror of Richtas Run, et. al.

Dear Lady Twilight,

It is good to hear from one of the heroines that helped banish the hatred from my heart. I am doing well, relatively speaking. My lessons on modern Ponish dialect are coming along, though I often slip back into the old words, most often with the traditional royal ‘we.’ Celestia often has to remind me that the Royal Canterlot Voice is to be reserved for restoring order or speaking in outdoor conditions.

I am sorry to say that I will not be attending the Grand Galloping Gala this year. I am still acquainting myself with this era, and don’t wish to risk embarrassing my sister with another faux pas. Shortly after I recovered my magic, she had to restrain me from finishing an honor duel the old way when one of the nobles snubbed me. I did not yet know that honor duels no longer ended in vassalage or execution.

In regards to your question, I’m rather hesitant to speak of this matter, especially considering my past as Nightmare Moon, but I would rather relive the pain than do nothing while another nightmare forms.

Yes, Celestia has been known to ‘play chess’ as it were. It is something that all leaders have to do to some extent. They must weigh the benefits of each political decision and move the pieces such that the nation is affected in the most positive manner possible.

It was this detached style of rule, along with her indifference to my concerns, that contributed to my fall. Make no mistake, the choice was ultimately my own, but she did not act against my transformation until it was too late. She believed my feelings to be a lesser matter. She was wrong, of course, and we both paid for it dearly.

Could she be subtly leading you to some unfortunate end? Absolutely not. It is not in her nature. Do I believe that she is quietly leading you towards some ultimate realization or position? I have no evidence, so I can not give you a definite answer. However she has done it before. She speaks highly of you, and I can see the love she has for you when we speak privately. However, again, she expressed her love for me a thousand years ago as well, yet turned her back to my requests for help. I remember seeing the betrayal in her eyes when I confronted her. She truly had no idea what she was doing had affected me so, so my answer is thus:

It is possible, and if she is doing so, it appears that she hasn’t learned from her mistakes.

I will respect your wishes and not mention your concerns to her. So far she hasn’t included me in any plans regarding you, but I will “keep an ear out” as the saying goes these days. Regardless of what I hear, heed my advice. If you feel like you are being used, do not hold it to yourself. Speak to your friends. Speak to me. I will gladly listen to your concerns, and I am sure your friends will as well. Take it from somepony who has been down that path.

The only place staying silent leads to is destruction.


H.R.H. Princess Luna


Twilight wasn’t sure what happened after the letter. Celestia seemed to have calmed down with her requests of Twilight and her friends. Did Luna go back on her word? Or perhaps she was subtle and inserted herself in Celestia’s plans before politely disagreeing? Twilight sent a letter to Luna about this, but received a response that she had done nothing deliberate.

As far as her friends...she didn’t want to involve them in this. Like Luna, she had no real evidence, and didn’t want to slander the Princess needlessly. As well, such words could break apart their friendship. She decided to maintain this issue with Princess Luna for the most part. From time to time, she would drop hints and gently try to steer conversations towards getting her friends’ opinions, but they always inevitably support the Princess.

Every time her concerns came up, she wondered if she wasn’t simply seeing things where there were none.


“Good luck, my little ponies. The fate of Equestria is in your hooves.”

The rest of the girls turned to leave, but Twilight stayed put. A few more minutes of chaos wasn’t going to destroy Equestria, and Discord seemed like a creature that wanted to play with them anyway. Twilight’s scrutinization of everything Celestia said over the past year had developed into a sense of doubt when it came to figures in power, and she used it on Discord’s rather pathetic riddle.

“Twists and turns are my master plan. Then find the Elements back where you began.”

The Elements were back in Ponyville. Probably in the library, as that was where the six of them met together the first time. How Discord knew this, she didn’t know, but she didn’t really care.

“Is there something else, Twilight?” Princess Celestia asked. The other five mares stopped and turned.

“Yes, uh...I don’t suppose we could get some help? I mean you know Discord better than all of us, so you know his tricks, right? Plus, he uses chaos magic, so there’s very little he can’t do. If he decides to just attack us, there’s nothing we can do about it until we retrieve the Elements.”

Behind her, her friends looked at each other uneasily.

“I’m afraid I’m needed here, Twilight,” Celestia said. “Somepony needs to maintain order, or as close to it as possible. If I abandon my post now, even to help save Equestria, it will only incite a panic.”

“Fair enough,” Twilight admitted. “What about Princess Luna?”

“I’ve sent my sister to explain things in the major cities and calm the populace. I’m sure that Discord is intercepting communications, and she’s the only other pony that can get by him.”

“Okay. How about some guards? I know it wouldn’t do much, but safety in numbers?”

Celestia sighed, and smiled serenely. “You are correct. At best they could distract Discord for a few moments. However they are needed here in Canterlot and the cities to keep the peace and prevent riots. I’m sorry, Twilight, but it’s up to you six. Have faith in yourself, and your friendship. I know you can do it.”

I knew you could do it.


Lady Twilight Sparkle, Bearer of Magic, Purger of the Nightmare, Bane of Chaos

H.R.H. Princess Luna, Alicorn of the Night, The Serene Midnight, Guardian of Dreams, et. al.

Dear Twilight,

As always, it is good to hear from you. Your correspondence has helped me greatly this last year.

I am not able to properly express my gratitude for you and your friends’ defeat of Discord in mere script. That damned draconequus spent decades torturing sister and I with his antics. As such, I have seen it fit to commemorate his day of reimprisonment as a holiday. I wished to create new constellations for the six of you, appearing on that night, but sister believes you will be too embarrassed. Instead I will celebrate with a meteor shower.

Now, on to your concerns.

I am troubled by Celestia’s decisions. She did have valid points, but they are lacking. Her presence in Canterlot was stabilizing, but only barely. Discord’s chaos is all consuming. When he besieged Equestria before, there was little we could do aside from clean up his changes after he left an area and give somewhat false reassurances to the residents.

I believe that her going with you would have been the better option. Celestia and I are the only ponies left that can hold our own against him. Should she have accompanied you, she could have given you several necessary minutes to complete a critical task.

As for my own absence, Celestia 'sugar coated' it. That’s the saying, yes? I was out explaining the situation to the major cities, but the issue was a bit more personal than that. She believed that had I met Discord directly, I would have started a fight. I was always the more militant sibling, and had I unleashed my power upon Discord, the damage could have been catastrophic should it have taken place with bystanders. She may have been right, so I don’t blame her for sending me away.

She was right about the guards. At best they would have distracted him for mere seconds. At worst he would have turned them against you.

You have my sympathies, on that subject. I have felt Discord’s influence on my mind before, and I do not wish to again. It is just like him to send you all through a gauntlet, breaking your wills just before the prize, so you can’t even use it against him.

That being said, hearing of ‘Tom the Rock’ brings me no end of dark amusement.

But yes, back on topic. That sister gave you no assistance whatsoever disturbs me greatly. It appears that she is testing you for something. With your permission, I will begin trying to insert myself in whatever machinations she has for you. So far I detect nothing malicious. Perhaps she wishes to simply push you to your full potential. It wouldn’t be the first time she has done this.

I would also like to inform you that I will be attending Ponyville’s Nightmare Night festival this year. I plan to reshape the holiday from one of fear to one of celebration. Attached to this letter are my plans. Please advise me of what you think, as I still struggle with modern culture from time to time.

Your Friend,



Over the next year, things slowed down considerably when it came to what Twilight had begun to see as ‘Celestia’s Meddling.’ Requests were few and easy, much more suitable for six civilian mares.

Twilight slowly relaxed, settling in with her friendship lessons. They just seemed so much more benign than whatever grand plan Celestia had, and she had to admit that they were helping her in life. To think that a year ago, she was a complete and utter shut-in.

Shortly after the Discord issue, Twilight ran into a problem. She had a friendship report due, but nothing to satisfy it with. Part of her was screaming that letting this lapse would tarnish her perfect record, but another part wanted to let it go, just to see what would happen. To see if Celestia used this to try and influence her again.

After a considerable amount of stress, she decided to let it go. The day went by with no report. Nothing happened. There was no letter or visit by Celestia to express her disappointment. No assignment back to magic kindergarten. Utter silence until the response to her report on Luna’s visit to Ponyville a week later, expressing her thanks for helping her sister adjust. With Twilight’s help, it had more or less gone off without a hitch. Pinkie caused some trouble, but Twilight shut it down quite quickly.

Perhaps I've been overreacting? She would have surely done something if I tarnished my 'score' with a late report.

Her letters with Luna quickly grew more and more casual, especially after they set up a dragonfire connection directly to her. Luna did confirm that Celestia is up to something, albeit benevolent. Her tests were designed to push her, but the desired result still eluded her. Luna speculated that Celestia wanted Twilight to eventually serve on her advisory council, or some other similar position.

Of course, things couldn’t be so simple. That would be too easy.


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There is a matter of grave importance to discuss. I will visit your dream tonight at midnight.



Twilight was busy creating what she believed to be the new Fifth Law of Magic. Symbols and glyphs and beautiful math covered her mile long chalkboard. Her calculations were perfect. Her logic was sound. She turned away to quintuple check her notes. Yes! The next revolution in magical theory was at hoof! She turned back to her board, and screamed.

All her work was gone! The numbers and lines scrambled! Years of work, gone! All turned into-

“Wait, what?”

The lines and calculations had transformed into a flat drawing of Princess Luna. Twilight yelped as the drawing seemed to leap out of the board, resolving into her usual form.

“P-Princess! What have you done? All my work, my research! You…”

Luna’s horn flared blue, and Twilight froze as she suddenly became aware of the fact that she was in a dream.

Twilight gasped. “Ohmygosh! I’m so sorry, Luna! I didn’t know-”

Luna held up a hoof. “Tis fine, Twilight. I often get similar responses whenever I disturb pleasant dreams.” She frowned, clearly having been under stress.

Twilight smiled. “Right, right that makes sense. Er, are you okay? Been dealing with a lot of nightmares?” She looked around before giving a bit of will, shifting the dreamscape to her home at the Golden Oak Library.

Luna shook her head, and sat down on a chair. “Nay- er, no- er, yes. I have dealt with a baker’s dozen nightmares tonight. However such work is hardly winding. No I am...conflicted, about what I learned today.”

Twilight gave her full attention, bringing her own chair nearby to sit in. “Did you find out what Celestia wants from me?” Luna nodded silently, and Twilight winced at that. “Is it that bad?”

Luna sighed. “No. I maintain that she wants only the best for you, but…”

Twilight leaned in.

“I must beg your forgiveness,” Luna said sadly.

“You’re not going to tell me?” Twilight asked incredulously.

Luna sighed again and looked away with a wince. “This is...difficult. Celestia is my sister. You are my best friend. What she told me in confidence is...substantial. I promised to assist you in finding out her secret, however what I have found out…”

She swallowed. “Please understand, I still wish to help you. However doing so would mean massively betraying my sister’s trust. I am asking- nay, begging you to not force me to choose.” She looked to Twilight, her expression contorted by fear and guilt.

Twilight wanted to be mad, and was in fact outraged that Luna would go back on her promise to do this, but she also had felt the pull of being forced to choose between the trust of two friends before. It was not a pleasant experience.

Like a steam release, Twilight let out a breath, and with it, her anger. Old Twilight would stop at nothing to learn all she could, and damn whoever got their feelings hurt in the process. New Twilight…

She couldn’t do that to her friend.

“I won’t force you to choose.” She squeaked as the Lunar Princess surprised her with a hug and several impromptu tears.

“Thank you. You are the only true friend I have made since my return. The thought of losing you is...unthinkable. Tis been you that has made these early months bearable.” She let out a shuddering breath, and Twilight returned the hug. They sat there silently for several minutes before Luna finally pulled away, wiping away her tears.

“I understand that you can’t tell me directly,” Twilight said. “But can you give me anything? Nothing is fine, but…”

Luna nodded. “I understand. My plea is evidence enough that this is major, and I still wish to help you. So I shall give you some...assistance.” She paused in thought for a moment, playing with her tail a bit. Twilight had noted that Luna did that when in deep consideration.

Finally, she smiled gently. “I believe I can point you in the right direction. Yes, she is preparing you for something incredible. Something with a very heavy amount of responsibility. Tell me, do you have access to the Restricted Library?”

Twilight paled slightly at that question. “The Restricted Library?” The place where dangerous magic, dark magic, was contained. “I mean, I went in there a few times with Princess Celestia for some very limited research, but otherwise, no.”

Luna frowned slightly. “That is a setback. The knowledge you require is in there. I will not ask you to break in, especially as it is much more secure after Celestia’s previous student abused the rather lax security.”

Twilight remembered hearing something about that once at school. Sunset-something was her name. Started studying dark magic without permission and got banished for it.

Luna stood up. “We will bide our time. In a few months, I will suggest to sister to grant you access to it. She wishes to test you, and so I will propose a test. Unless...of course, you ask me to simply express my…” She hesitated. “...disapproval, at what she desires of you? To help nip this in the bud, as they say?”

Twilight thought about that. “What do you think?”

Luna smiled softly. “I believe that you have the potential to bear the burden admirably, however I also believe that you should have a say in the matter. What she will eventually thrust upon you is great.”

Twilight thought about that for a moment. “Actually, no. Let’s leave it alone for now. After all, I can always decline it if I want, right?”

Luna was silent, but frowned.


“I am sorry, my friend, but I can not answer that.”

Twilight looked at her, but then smiled faintly. “I think I understand.”

“Thank you.”


Twilight wasn’t having a good day. First her brother Shining Armor was getting married, which in itself wasn’t a bad thing. The issue was that he sprung this on her the day before. Supposedly there was some kind of imminent, yet vague threat. So he was busy maintaining a massive shield over Canterlot by himself. His special talent may have been in abjurations, but even he had his limits.

The second problem was that he was marrying Cadance, or rather Mi Amore Cadenza as she had demanded to be called. Again, not something bad in and of itself, but her old foalsitter, who was the kindest and best pony ever, had gone rotten to the core. She was callous, dismissive, and practically had gone off the deep end of snooty noble behavior. She was a princess, but she had always kept away from that kind of acting when she was younger.

The final straw was the thing Twilight was running away from. After eavesdropping on a conversation between Shining and Cadance, she spied the evil pony using neuromancy to force him to concede a disagreement. Mind magics were highly restricted, punishable by banishment to Tartarus for unauthorized use.

“You’re sure it was neuromancy?” Luna asked with a level tone. Twilight had gone straight to the royal sister that was awake, and since it was night time, that was Luna. Even if Celestia was up, Twilight would have probably gone to Luna anyway. A vague threat to Canterlot had ‘test’ written all over it, and Twilight was not willing to gamble her brother’s well being on that. Celestia was untrustworthy. She had some kind of plan, and had gambled with lives in the past. Twilight refused to allow that to happen again.

“Well, maybe?” Twilight said uncertainly. “When she zapped him, he collapsed, his eyes unfocused, and he looked dazed. After that he seemed to go along with whatever she said.”

Luna frowned, fidgeting with her tail. “While it’s hearsay, your description does suggest you are correct. The behavior you’ve described of our adopted niece is most odd as well. She’s usually always so...bubbly. It could be simply stress, as your friends describe, but it takes a considerable amount to change a pony so. Do you have anything else to add?”

“Well…” Twilight gently tapped at her forehead. “Oh! Her magical aura has changed. It’s supposed to be blue, but now it’s this bright green color.”

Luna frowned. “Bright green. That sounds familiar, but I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly where from. Aura changes are not unheard of, however. It could be irrelevant. After all, some spells have their own color by themselves.”

“So what are we doing to do?” Twilight asked, starting to get frantic. “My brother is being mind controlled by that...she-demon, and nopony believes me!” Luna put a comforting hoof on Twilight’s withers, and with a few gentle pats, the edge of the unicorn’s stress was taken off.

“Calm yourself, Twilight. We must tread carefully, and plan. To act rashly is foolish. After all, a general consumed by their emotions will almost always be easier to defeat than one that is cool and collected. You must not succumb to your nerves. Now, release your stress.”

Twilight nodded and took several minutes, and calming breaths, to bring herself down to a level of significant, but manageable, worry.

“Well done, my friend. Now, in any engagement, information is crucial. Walking onto a battlefield blind is the easiest path to defeat. What do we know?”

And so they discussed what they knew, and fashioned a hypothesis. There was an anonymous threat against Canterlot, and thus Shining Armor was shielding it. The threat, at least the obvious one, had yet to appear, so Shining was spending energy on a possible hoax, and tiring himself. If the enemy wanted they could simply wait for him to collapse from exhaustion, and attack while the main defense was spent.

Should Twilight have been correct, that meant that Cadance was allied with this threat, or could have been the mastermind behind it.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Twilight said. “Cadance was always so kind, caring, not...callous and evil.”

“You forget, Twilight, that anypony can succumb to darkness and hatred. Simply look upon me for an example.” Twilight cringed. “No, Twilight, do not feel guilty for bringing it up; my guilt has been eased considerably. I will always live with what I did, but it was you that not only brought the Nightmare low, but also helped bring me back up.”

Twilight smiled with an embarrassed blush, and looked away for a moment. “Thank you.”

“You are most welcome. Now, dark magic is insidious. It’s possible that Cadance doesn’t even know what she is doing is wrong. However, we must not let her know we are suspicious, lest she spring into a rage, and threaten our subjects.”

“You have a plan?”

Luna smirked. “I do.”


Celestia, along with the Bearers, looked horrified at the black, buglike thing held securely in Celestia's magic. It was a simple plan: suggest that Shining Armor was exhausting himself, and have him checked by the garrison's doctor. Cadance had tried to stop this unsuccessfully, at the cost of drawing more and more suspicion on herself.

“Cadance?” Twilight asked weakly.

‘Cadance’ laughed, a wicked and hate filled thing that sent shivers down the spines of every pony there. “As if I would ever be a pathetic pony.”

“A changeling,” Luna said evenly. “A race long since thought defeated.”

“Luna and I locked them away,” Celestia explained. “To prevent them from draining the love from our ponies. It seems that they escaped. Who are you, broodmother? How long has it been since Metamorpha’s rule?”

“My grandmother died centuries ago in that blasted volcano,” the changeling growled. “I am Chrysalis, and it is my job to feed my subjects. I had planned on taking Canterlot. Equestria is filled with love; you ponies would have sustained us for years.” She scoffed. “It seems that my deception failed. Tell me, Nightmare Moon, how did you find out?”

Luna’s nose scrunched a bit at the name. “I didn’t. Twas Twilight Sparkle.” She gestured to the unicorn in question. “Apparently she found your acting to be quite lacking.” Chrysalis sneered. “So she and I planned to investigate you. I had my guard set up outside during the rehearsal, and requested a doctor to be on standby. It was simple to separate Captain Armor from you and have him examined. Should he have been clean, they would have dispersed. Twilight?”

Twilight stepped up. “The doctor found several geases on him, and there’s evidence of a chronic magical drain. He’ll be fine though. He’s headed to the infirmary to have them dispelled.”

Luna nodded. “It is unfortunate this truth has come to pass.”

“Where is the real Cadance? Celestia demanded.

Chrysalis laughed wickedly. “I’ll tell you nothing. Unless you release me, she will eventually starve to death. Even now, my soldiers are assailing your shield. Once they reach me, you will never find your precious Princess of Love.

Luna raised a brow in bemusement. After ordering Shining to allow her to assume responsibility for the shield, she stepped in with ease. “Is that what that is? Strange, I barely feel it. Much like a cloud of gnats trying to penetrate steel.” Rainbow Dash snorted in laughter at that before Luna approached the trapped Queen. “You will tell me where my niece is.”

Chrysalis glared. “Or what?”

Luna smirked. “I believe it’s not appropriate to say in polite company.” She motioned to the guards, who proceeded to throw the captured changeling in irons and a magical suppressor. She struggled, but the amount of ponies was simply too much, and she was led away.

“Luna,” Celestia said tiredly. “Those days are behind us.”

“The past seems to have clung to us, despite our attempts otherwise,” she replied cryptically. “I have borne this burden before, I will do so again for my niece.”

“Um, Twilight, what is she talking about?” Fluttershy asked quietly. Twilight simply shook her head. Speaking of what Luna planned would terrify the poor pegasus. Based on their expressions, only Pinkie Pie was the only other one that didn’t understand what wasn’t said.

“My own niece replaced, how did I miss this?” Celestia asked.

“You have always been too farsighted, sister. You focus too much on the future, and miss that which is right underneath your nose.”


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Celestia had a test for her. A test. The word had grown to become synonymous with a curse to Twilight. Every time she heard the word, she immediately began analyzing what was said, what was not said, what was done, and what was not done. Chrysalis’ plot on Canterlot wasn’t Celestia’s fault, but it had only continued to erode Twilight's trust in Celestia. Where before she was simply manipulative, now she was fallible to the point that if Twilight hadn't stepped in, Equestria may have fallen.

She was still unsure that Celestia's failure wasn't a calculated move.

She entered the throne room at a sedate pace, glancing at the stained glass windows that adorned the walls. One of them depicted her and her friends’ defeat of Nightmare Moon. Another was of their defeat of Discord. The newest showed Twilight and Luna seeing through the changeling’s disguise, and capturing her.

The amount of changelings that were throwing themselves on Luna’s shield numbered in the thousands, but it still held. Luna refused to tell Twilight exactly what she had done to coerce Chrysalis, but the insect queen eventually gave in.

Celestia and Luna didn’t exactly hold it against her for wanting to feed her starving subjects. After all, they fed on love. It was either commit to attacks like this or die, so they had been merciful. Chrysalis was under house arrest, and rather than condemn the changeling species to extinction, there was a system being set up to feed them.

Cadance had been found in the old crystal mines of the Canterhorn, roughed up but otherwise fine. The wedding had been postponed, and Shining was horrified that he fell for the bug’s manipulations, but Cadance had forgiven him. The sun seemed to shine brighter with their love as they kissed at the wedding.

Alas, relaxation and calm wasn’t meant to be, it seemed. Celestia had a test for her.

“Trust me, little sister,” Celestia said to a frowning Luna. As Celestia turned to Twilight, Luna gave the unicorn a look, and that was all that was required. This was a part of Celestia's plan.

“You wanted to see me, Princess? I brought my supplies.” Twilight said. She had brought her test taking supplies, quills, parchment, and the like, on the off chance that this was a more normal exam. She had hoped this was something along those lines, but Luna had just confirmed that this was not to be.

Celestia’s expression was soft, but serious. “This is a different kind of test, Twilight. The Crystal Empire has returned.”

Twilight wracked her brain for the term, but came up with nothing. “The Crystal Empire? I’ve never heard of it.”

Celestia explained that it was an old nation, ruled by an evil unicorn named King Sombra. He enslaved his subjects, forced them into hard labor, and used them as shock troops in a war against Equestria. Celestia and Luna were able to defeat him, but not without cost. Before his defeat, he managed to curse the Empire, forcing it to vanish. Now, after more than a thousand years, it had finally returned, most likely with Sombra clinging to it like an infection.

The Empire needed to be protected, as its aura spread across the land. If hatred and fear took hold there once more, it would affect all of Equestria.

“You want me to help protect an entire empire?” Twilight asked.

“It is, as I said, a different kind of test. But one I'm certain you will pass.”

I knew you could do it.

Twilight took a breath. So far there was nothing odd about this. They were heroes. It was what they did. “And how am I supposed to do this?”

“You will join Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in the Crystal Empire.”

Twilight blinked. “Shining is there? What about his recovery?”

Celestia smiled faintly. “I have been assured that he is well enough. You will not be alone, either. Your Ponyville friends will join you as well. I have every confidence you will succeed. And when you do, I'll know you are ready to move on to the next level of your studies.”

Those words would have given Twilight an untold amount of elation mere months ago. The prospect of new material to research? New knowledge?

It was drowned out by reality.

“And if I fail-”

“You won’t,” Celestia assured. Twilight fought to keep herself from glaring at the interruption.

“If I-”

“You won’t.” Twilight’s lips curled back for a split second. If Celestia saw it, she didn’t react. “Twilight, in the end, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the Empire. Do you understand?”


“Then g- what?” Celestia’s eyes widened. “What do you not understand?”

“Why are you sending me and my friends against a warlord? Why did you send two ponies, both of which recently suffered from mind control and malnutrition, alone to the Crystal Empire?”

“Because I am confident that all of you can succeed,” Celestia said evenly.

I knew you could do it.

“Very well,” Twilight said. “So we will be taking the Elements with us?”

“They will not be necessary, Twilight. You need only to trust in yourselves.”

Twilight glanced over to Luna, who was looking at her sister with disapproval. “What about a guard detail, then? You couldn’t with Discord, but surely you could spare some here?”

Celestia frowned. “As I said, my student. This test is for you and you alone.”

Twilight tried one more time. "Okay, what about Sombra? What do we know about him? What can he do?"

Celestia smiled at her serenely, but Twilight only saw it as patronizing. "It matters not. You have the power of friendship with you. With it, you can overcome any challenge."

Twilight’s face burned red with outrage before she could stop it. It must have been a doozy, because Celestia actually flinched at it. Enough of this. No more chess, no more incomplete information, no more gambling with lives, no more tests.


Celestia’s eyes widened in visible shock. “No?”

“I will not put Equestria on the line just for a test. Millions of ponies are at stake. The only proper course of action is to do everything in our power to ensure that we will succeed.”

“And I have done so,” Celestia said sternly. “I am absolutely certain that you and your friends are all that are needed. Anything else is superfluous. Now go. Every minute you are arguing with me is another minute Sombra regains his strength.”

Twilight’s face twisted through all manner of emotions before finally falling into an expressionless mask. “As you command, your highness.” Twilight performed a customary subject's bow before leaving.

Luna looked at her sister, whose composure was starting to crack. Those five words had hit Celestia hard, and while Luna felt sympathetic, she refused to console her. Celestia had brought this upon herself.

“What just happened?” Celestia softly asked.

“You already know the answer, sister,” Luna said before walking out.


It was only an hour later that Celestia entered Luna’s study, frowning. “Luna?”

“Yes, sister?” Luna asked, not looking up from her book.

“The Elements of Harmony are gone.”

“How odd.”

There was a beat. “Four squads of your guards are missing as well.”


“A warship launched just ten minutes ago, and proceeded north. The dockmaster said you authorized it.”

“What a coincidence.” Luna scowled as her book was pulled from her grasp.

“We discussed this. Twilight needs to deal with this crisis herself.

Luna raised a brow. “Is she not?”

“With her lessons in friendship at the helm, not with violence. She must pass this test so we can be sure she is ready for her destiny.”

Luna frowned and stood, walking to the window and gazing out, spying the shrinking airship in the distance. “Do you know what I see, sister?” She turned. “I see a pony that passed the test the moment she chose to defy you.”

Celestia stepped back. “Wh-”

“I see a pony that refuses to let others stand in her way when it comes to protecting the innocent. I see a pony that will do all that is necessary to properly serve those she is charged with. What do I see? I see a heroine, one that does not compromise her ideals, even for those that she cares for.”

Celestia was speechless for a moment, but eventually returned to her displeased stare. “And you helped her.”

“I authorized nothing,” Luna dismissed. “Twilight assumed I would approve, and I do.”

“And if she did ask for your help?”

“I would have given it without delay. It is the mark of a wise leader that knows when they require assistance, sister, and when an advisor no longer contributes.”

Celestia was silent for another minute. “What is happening between me and my student? She hasn’t called me ‘your highness’ since…” She cringed. “Luna? Have you been speaking to her?”

“We exchange correspondence weekly, if not more frequently.”

“May I ask what you two speak of?”

“You may not.” Celestia recoiled. “I’m sorry sister, but what Twilight and I discuss is private.”

“Do you not trust me?”

“I am not the pony you should be asking that question.”


Six hours later, the HMS Prominence entered the Crystal Empire, and was attacked by a mass of shadow. Through the efforts of Equestria’s finest and the Elements of Harmony, King Sombra was ultimately defeated and petrified. A military occupation was ordered, food and supplies were distributed to the locals, and a temporary government was set up with Cadance as its head.

Twilight and her friends eventually discovered the existence of a powerful artifact, the Crystal Heart. Though the search took some time and careful disarming of several dark magic traps, they returned it to its rightful place. The encroaching winter, along with the remnants of Sombra’s influence, were blasted away by the power of the crystal ponies’ love and happiness.

Celestia had ordered Cadance to assume control of the Crystal Empire, however the crystal ponies had other plans. They respected Cadance for her efforts in staving off Sombra’s attack, but it was Twilight that led the charge, it was Twilight that found the Crystal Heart, and it was Twilight that they wanted. Twilight declined the crown, but offered to maintain the interim government while they figured out what they wanted to do. Cadance and Shining Armor returned to Equestria, much to Celestia’s surprise, and promptly began recovering from their second major ordeal in two months.

A month later, Twilight stepped down as Crystal Regent, leaving an extremely efficient and optimized governmental structure for the newly elected King Diamond Facet to step into.


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Dear Twilight Sparkle,

The spell contained on the last page of this book is Star Swirl the Bearded's secret unfinished masterpiece. He was never able to get it right, and thus abandoned it. I believe you are the only pony who can understand and rewrite it.

Princess Celestia

Twilight frowned at the letter, reading it and rereading it. There was nothing implicitly wrong with what she was asking, but-

Spike belched out another letter, this one with the seal of the moon on it. Spike dutifully handed it over, knowing that Twilight preferred to read her letters from Princess Luna in private.

Dear Twilight,

I’m sorry to say that my efforts to discourage Celestia from this course have failed. She is aware that your trust in her is broken and of my disapproval for her methods, but she believes that it is for the greater good. She believes that your destiny must be fulfilled, even if her heart is broken for it.

Again, I apologize that my plan to give you access to the knowledge necessary also failed. I expected her to have more faith in you, but we both know just how dangerous dark magic is, and how inquisitive you are.

You now approach the precipice. If you finish the spell, there is no going back. Should you follow this path and hate my sister for the consequences, know that I will always be at your side. We can discuss this more after you have made your decision.

Your friend now and always,


Twilight frowned before storing the letter away with the others. She sat on one of her chairs, staring at the book.

“Hey Twi, you okay?” Spike asked.

Twilight shook her head. “No, Spike. I’m not alright.”

Spike frowned and walked up to her, leaning into her side for a hug. “Is there anything I can do?”

Twilight smiled at the ever helpful whelp, and brought him closer with a leg. “No, Spike. I don’t think anypony can help. This has been broken for a long time.”

Spike was silent. “How about some hot cocoa?”

Twilight smiled faintly. “I’d like that. Thank you.”

As Spike left, Twilight retreated into her thoughts. Celestia has been testing her character and ability for years. For what? A position in the government? Possibly. What would completing a spell do? It would certainly show her magical aptitude. So what would be the title? Court Mage? Archmage? Did she intend to put Twilight in a spell creation position? That kind of responsibility and resources did require integrity, lest an untrustworthy unicorn make world ending magic.

It was a position that she would have once wanted more than anything, but now she couldn’t care less. She enjoyed her small town life in Ponyville. She enjoyed her friends. She enjoyed her studies, or most of them at least. She felt that there was very little more to learn about friendship. Her reports were getting further and further apart as ‘lessons’ began repeating themselves.

So Celestia was ready for her to ascend to whatever position she had in mind.

What should I do?

She had half a mind to return the book unopened out of spite, but the scholar in her was giddy at the thought of finishing Star Swirl’s masterpiece. Luna said that there was no going back if she did this, but what did that mean? Would something permanent happen, or was it going to be Celestia’s offer of a high position or power? Or both?

Twilight groaned, just as Spike came in with the cocoa.

“Still having trouble?” he asked, handing her the sweet drink.

Twilight nodded before sipping at it. “Yeah. Thanks Spike.”

“You don’t like Princess Celestia anymore, do you?”

Twilight blinked and stared at him. “Is it that obvious?”

“You frown every time you get a letter from her now. When you say her name, you sometimes sound like you’re growling. What did she do?”

Twilight sighed. “It’s complicated, Spike. I think she’s pushing me towards something without asking me what I want.”

“What do you want?”

Twilight didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know, Spike. At first I just wanted to study, then I wanted to spend time with my friends, but it seems like Celestia planned all of it. It just makes it feel all...fake.”

Spike frowned. “Twilight, they’re your friends. They aren’t faking it.”

Twilight smiled, and hugged him close again. “I know, Spike. Thank you.”

“So what are you going to do?”

Twilight looked over at the book, and thus, Celestia’s request.

What do I want?

I want to study magic, and I want to spend time with my friends.

“I’m going to complete this spell, and after that...we’ll see.” Twilight Sparkle never accomplished anything by running away, after all. “You helped a lot, Spike. Thank you.”


From one to another, another to one. A mark of one's destiny singled out alone, fulfilled.

Twilight should have seen it coming, honestly. The spell affected cutie marks. Something benign, in her opinion. After all, there had been a fair few incidents involving them during her time in Ponyville. There were plenty of cures on hand to rectify the issues as well.

Of course, it couldn’t have been that easy. Watching her friends lives get altered on such a fundamental level was at first shocking, but soon it turned into self loathing and hatred for not partaking in proper safety measures. She should have had a control group and a limited sample size. This was after all, an unknown spell.

At least she was able to reverse the effects. It turned out that friendship really was magic, as friendship was the key to completing the spell.

From all of us together, together we're friends. With the marks of our destinies made one, there is magic without end.

And thus, Twilight stepped over the precipice. She found herself in a strange realm of light and fog. The first thing she saw was of course was Princess Celestia.

“Congratulations, Twilight. I knew you could do it.”

I knew you could do it.

Twilight fought back a biting remark. “What did I do?” she asked.

“You did something today that's never been done before. Something even a great unicorn like Star Swirl the Bearded was not able to do, because he did not understand friendship like you do. The lessons you've learned here in Ponyville have taught you well. You have proven that you're ready, Twilight.”

“What am I ready for?”

Harmony magic filled the area as Celestia stepped seamlessly into a song about how she had watched Twilight all these years. Scenes from her life flitted by, most of them warming, others tainted by her realization that they were manufactured by the one walking next to her.

She was so distracted by this that she didn’t notice the magic beginning to swirl around her. She was lifted into the air as Celestia watched with a smile. She wanted to shove it away, to thwart Celestia’s plan, but something stopped her.

Do you want this?

The magic was asking her. It couldn’t force this on her. It wouldn’t force this on her.

I don’t even know what you are offering.

Twilight got a sense of disapproval, but not directed at her. Instead her head was filled with a sense of power, sight, knowledge, wisdom, and eternity.

Immortality. Ascension.

Do you want this?

Twilight considered it for a moment.

What is expected of me?

Twilight felt amusement.


At first she felt a sense of contentment at that reassurance, but her old skepticism tapped on her shoulder and whispered in her ear. It reminded her that immortals don’t live. After a certain point, they simply exist, watching as the world passes them by. Time meant nothing, and eventually, ponies wouldn’t either as they faded into the background. Just chess pieces to move on a board.

And that was all that was needed to make her decision.

I decline.

As you wish.

Her next sensation was rising from the ground. In the back of her mind, she quietly expected to have been exhausted from dealing with that kind of magic, but instead she felt rejuvenated and fresh.

“Twilight, what happened?” asked Applejack’s voice. Indeed, as she blinked away the white in her vision, Twilight saw her friends standing around her in concern.

“I’m...not entirely sure,” she said in a half-truth. Admitting that ascension was offered to you and declined was something that took a lot of thought first. Alas, she would never get that time.

“We were worried sick!” Rainbow said. “When the Elements blasted you, there was just a scorch mark! We thought you died!” She zipped over and pulled Twilight into a tight hug. “Don’t you ever do that again!”

One by one, each of her friends did the same, soon enveloping Twilight in a tight embrace of love and friendship.

“She shouldn’t have any problems keeping that promise,” said an unwelcome voice. The pony pile turned its heads to the approaching form of Princess Celestia. Her friends let her go, moving to bow.

“My faithful student, I-” she paused, her eyes lingering on Twilight’s wingless sides.

“-knew you could do it,” Twilight finished for her.

And thus, the final piece clicked into place in Twilight’s head. The tests, designed to see if she was worthy of power, to see if she could use that power effectively, to see if she was capable of ruling justly and fairly. Celestia wanted to make a princess of her.

“A princess,” Twilight said evenly, hiding everything she was feeling. “You wanted to make me a princess.”

“...yes,” she said, still obviously trying to comprehend what was before her.

Twilight’s friends let out gasps and words of shock at the statement.

“I...don’t understand,” Celestia finally said. “When you arrived at the Aethereal Realm, I thought it had finally chosen you.”

Twilight took a deep breath, carefully restraining her outrage at this turn of events. “To ascend.” Celestia nodded. "It did."

Celestia’s confusion turned to hope, but then careful neutrality at Twilight’s forced calm and non-alicorn appearance. “Yes, Twilight. Since you've come to Ponyville, you've displayed the charity, compassion, devotion, integrity, optimism, and of course, the leadership of a true princess.”

All around her, her friends displayed their agreement. Whatever that presence was seemed to agree too, but it had no designs on her. At least none she could feel. But there was one question that she recently asked herself, and answered.

What do I want?

Did she want to be a princess? Every filly answered yes when they were young, but those years were far behind Twilight. Now? What did she want? Responsibility? Some, perhaps. Power? Again, a small amount would be nice. But to be a princess? To rule over all of Equestria?

No. Especially not with someone she didn’t trust. Someone who didn’t even ask her opinion on the matter.

“Maybe,” Twilight said. “But you never asked me if I wanted that.”

Concern started to show in Celestia’s eyes. “I see. I had considered that, but-”

“You should have,” Twilight interrupted before Celestia could anger her further.

The quiet and misplaced words of encouragement from her friends suddenly went silent. The bystanders from the town suddenly started whispering to themselves. Celestia’s remaining composure started to slip from her like crumbling glass.

“Yes, sister, you should have. Perhaps if you did, you wouldn't be denying the fact that is staring you in the face,” Luna said, stepping out of the shadows. Everyone turned to look at her, save for Celestia, who was frozen stiff.

“Twilight?” Celestia asked quietly. “What did you do?”

Twilight took a deep breath, grabbed ahold of her emotions, and forced them into line. “Your plan failed. I told the realm I didn't want to ascend.” The crowd’s murmuring increased to a roar, and Celestia winced, looking to the crowd.

“Twilight, perhaps we should discuss this indoors,” she suggested.

Twilight shook her head. “No. Outside is fine. There’s no need to hide this.” She noted Luna’s smirk. “Princess, did you ever ask me if I wanted to rule? If I wanted to be an alicorn? To be shackled by immortality, to watch my friends die while I enjoy eternal youth and power?”

“I wanted to help you realize your destiny,” she said softly. Twilight could hear the disappointment, just barely.

“My own destiny, or the destiny that you picked out for me? I wanted to be your student. I wanted to study magic under you. I’m glad that I learned friendship, but you tricked me into doing so. You’ve been watching me this whole time, manipulating me, setting up tests and scenarios to see what I will do. Maybe it was for the best, and, yes, I’m a better pony for it, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that you’ve been lying and withholding information from me in order to steer me towards your own agenda!”

She took a deep breath for a momentary break, glancing at her friends. There was conflict in their eyes, and all of them were begging the Princess for an explanation with their looks. However, she saw in them what she needed before: a spark of sight that allowed them to see the imperfections in Celestia's pedestal. With them by her side, she felt her confidence increase tenfold. She stood up taller, her posture straight and even slightly imperious.

“Dear Princess Celestia. Today I learned something very important about friendship. I learned that true friends stick by you, and support you no matter what your life choices are. If they believe you are on the wrong path, they offer their assistance. They don’t make choices for you, they don't try to force you, and they certainly don't try to manipulate you. I’m afraid this will be my final report, as I am resigning from my position as your student.”

Everyone save for Luna gasped. Celestia winced, but otherwise remained silent.

“I am sorry, but I don’t believe you are fit to teach me anymore. Without trust between a teacher and student, there can be no progress, and I recently realized you lost my trust a long time ago. I don’t hate you, but I do not believe we can be friends anymore. I hope our relationship can remain cordial, as we will have to deal with each other due to my position as the Bearer of Magic. I wish you luck with your next protegé. Your former student, Twilight Sparkle.”

The crowd was silent as Twilight turned around, walked to the library, entered, and shut the door, locking it behind her.

And thus, Princess Twilight Sparkle never came to be, due to six little words.